Late Friday - here's something for you to chew on over the weekend.......
We're quickly approaching the time at which the first CBS Sports Blogpoll ballot is due, and I'm still struggling somewhat with who to include in the Top 25. One of the teams I'm struggling with is Notre Dame.
I don't hate the Fighting Irish. In fact, over the years I've been somewhat of a fan of Notre Dame football, spurred on by my mother when I was young. "They're Catholic, you should like them...or you'll go to hell." Okay, she didn't really say the "or you'll go to hell" part, but when you're young and Catholic you add that on to everything adults say, just like reading fortune cookies and adding "in bed" on the end.
I respected the Irish until Charlie Weis came along. If you could say one good thing about Bill Callahan, it's that he wasn't the head-on arrogant SOB that Weis has been since his arrival at Notre Dame and subsequent anointing as the second coming of Knute Rockne (or Frank Leahy, take your pick). Callahan had his moments, particularly his "it's too technical for you" comment, but they're nothing compared to Weis. It started right away, the idea that no one in the college game could touch him - it isn't his gut, but his brain that's big. "Let them try to stop a pro-style offense, which has multiple personnel groups and multiple formations", that was a prime one, wasn't it?
One of the benefits of blogging, especially for SB Nation, is that we have tons of sources upon which to rely. So, rather than figure this out all my own, I thought I'd ask our Notre Dame site for some input. Here's what Christopher Wilson from SB Nation's Rakes of Mallow had to say when I asked whether Notre Dame should be ranked:
I was asked if Notre Dame belongs in the Top 25. I'd like to pass and say "We'll see," but since this is all about projections, I'm going to go out on a fairly sturdy limb and say yes. All of those top recruits you've been hearing about going to South Bend over the last few seasons? They're now at the top of the depth chart, and some of them with a little seasoning from the last two campaigns. There's a lot of returning starters all across the board, and most of those that are departing are being replaced by guys with talent who've already produced to some degree. Between the talent on the roster and the schedule, making a prediction of a BCS bowl is not ridiculous, especially when you consider there will probably only be one game all season where the Irish aren't favored (at home against the Trojans in October).
Should you be skeptical? Of course. This is a team that blew leads against Pitt and North Carolina, lost to Syracuse on senior day, were shut out at Boston College and barely got a first down against Southern Cal. But they also played brilliantly at times, and the kids showed they grew up some by rallying after a disastrous end to the season (aforementioned losses to Syracuse and USC) and rallying to absolutely blitz Hawaii in their bowl game. While the Rainbow Warriors aren't the class of college football, they were a solid team that had no match for the Irish offense, which rolled up nearly 50 points before the end of the third quarter.
I'm of the belief that you can't tell a lot from fall camps, but it seems like the program is now flush with enough talent that no one is determined a starting spot, and are working hard enough to maintain them. People make fun of Irish fans for their ability to blame Ty Willingham for everything, but he was responsible for leaving some staggering holes in the depth chart which are now finally patched up with some top-tier recruits.
The Irish offense should be scintillating this season, but the defensive line, which is young, but has some talented size, is the biggest question mark. Your breakout player on offense is probably St. Michael Floyd, a super sophomore that should have his name mentioned with Julio Jones and AJ Green. On defense, the number one recruit in the country, Manti Te'o, steps in at linebacker, surrounded by a lot of other top flight backers and a strong secondary behind him.
As an Irish fan, I'm trained not to be optimistic, but dammit, this team could be good. I'm also completely and totally prepared for the team to lose to Nevada, but you should have them ranked. Where at exactly? Probably right about where the official pollsters are putting them, somewhere in the late teens or early twenties. They should finish the year higher, but before Charlie Weis proves he can steadily guide a team for an entire season, we should all be wary.
Damn. And here I thought those Fighting Irish fans dug a big moat around Charlie Weis and were defending him with all their might. Clearly they could take some hints from Texas in this regard.
Mr Wilson (from Rakes of Mallow not Dennis the Menace) has some good points. I don't think Weis is worth a damn as a college head coach and I'd rather he were gone from college football. But he does have a ton of a talent (not that it did Bill Callahan any good) and with this year's schedule it would take a complete screw up to not end up with eight wins (or 10, but I try not to think about that). Certainly Weis can't be so bad as to screw this season up, right? And he did recruit those players.
The blogpoll is all about fan feedback, and it should be about keeping one's bias out of the voting as well. So there you go - something for you to think about over the weekend. If you don't believe Notre Dame should be ranked, is it because of envy, hatred, gluttony... pick one of the seven deadly sins... or is it because you don't have much faith in them as a team and think that someone else belongs in the Top 25?